Pepperdine and Saint Mary's looked like the teams they were projected to be coming into the season, rather than the teams they've become over the first two months, as the Waves shut down the Gaels to pull off the upset.
Whenever a big name has come to Malibu over the past few years the Waves have stepped up their game. That was the case today as they hosted the nation's best shooting team, the first place Saint Mary's Gaels. Pepperdine returned to playing its hallmark strong defense and held the Gaels to an abysmal by their standards 40.7% from the field. In the second half that number was even worse at 30.8%.
Outside of McKeon Pavilion for just the fourth game this season, the Gaels offense posted its third worst efficiency rating of the year. With the loss the Gaels, due to a weak schedule, find themselves at 14-2 but without much of a resume. Meanwhile for Pepperdine what has been a disappointing season relative to expectations could now be back on the upswing. The Waves would've been likely out of NIT contention with a loss.
Jett Raines had a career high 24 points for the Waves, 20 of which came in the second half. Senor forward Stacy Davis notched his third straight double double with 17 points and 10 rebounds and provided a defensive effort that shut down Jock Landale down the stretch.
Saint Mary's was playing its game early with slow and steady offense working into the paint. From the outside Calvin Hermanson (14 points) and Emmett Naar (10 points) knocked down threes to help the Gaels out to a multi-possession lead. But the Waves wouldn't let them blow the game open. The Gaels attempted 14 first half threes but made only five. Even open looks weren't falling.
The Gaels held a seven point lead at the half but went ice cold in the second.
After six straight points from the free throw line by Raines gave Pepperdine a two point lead the Gaels started pounding the ball inside. Shots weren't falling so Jock Landale went to work around the basket. He was unstoppable in the middle of the second half, at one point scoring six straight of his own to give the Gaels a four point lead.
That's when Jett Raines, who was undersized on the defensive end against Landale but worked the mismatch to his advantage on the other end, took over. Marty Wilson made an adjustment that put Davis on Landale defensively and the Waves started picking up stops.
Down the stretch the Gaels were trading free throws for field goals and couldn't keep up with Pepperdine.
Calvin Hermanson hit his fourth three of the game with 13 seconds left to bring Saint Mary's within one. But Stacy Davis connected on both free throws with 10 seconds remaining to eliminate any chance the Gaels had to win it in regulation. A Hermanson three to tie it in the final seconds went long off the rim.
Pepperdine remains undefeated at home this season, while the Gaels fall to just 2-2 on the road. Their first trip outside of the Bay Area this year showed just how much harder it is to win away from home.